Petros Mhari voted the best Warrior at AFCON. Zimbabwe got all the support from the Government with each of the 23 players walking out of this biannual tournament about US$22 000 richer.
Despite sitting out of the academic 2-1 victory in the final group tie against Guinea in yet another failed African Cup of Nations by the Warriors, goalkeeper Petros Mhari has been voted as the best player from the lot by the fans.
But somehow coach, Norman Mapeza, failed to drill his team which was the first to be eliminated from the ongoing competition in Cameroon after playing only two group games.
With apparent lack of good management skills from Mapeza’s technical department, the Warriors suffered an extremely smash-and-grab last minute defeat to Senegal in their opener before a shock 1-2 loss to underdogs Malawi sealed Zimbabwe’s fate.
Mapeza made some wholesale changes to the team in their dead-rubber tie against Guinea, benching eight players who had started the first two games, including Mhari, who was replaced by Talbert Shumba between the sticks.
But, it seems, the FC Platinum goalkeeper had done just enough to outperform all the other players in those 180 minutes he kept the goals for Zimbabwe. The Herald shortlisted four players on their social media platforms who, according to match statistics, did better than their peers in that short stay in Cameroon and asked fans to vote for those who they felt did better than the rest.
And Mhari came out tops with 35.6 per cent of the vote. In recent years, Zimbabwe have been so shacky in their goalkeeping department and when Mapeza picked Mhari ahead of Shumba and the enterprising Spain-based youngster Martin Mapisa, there were doubts the former Hwange shot-stopper would be equal to the task
But he was more than ready for the job and for the entire afternoon, facing one of the best strikeforce led by Liverpool star Sadio Mane in Zimbabwe’s Group B opener against Senegal, only to concede that last-minute penalty.
He faced the fierce Mane twice in one-on-one situations and he managed to keep him at bay. In a match The Lions of Teranga dominated in all aspects of the game, it was Mhari who mostly threw his body on the line to save the Zimbabwean badge.
He thoroughly deserved the man-of-the-match accolade at the end of the day but somehow, that prize, which is mostly reserved for victors, went to Mane, the man who converted the penalty. Mhari was, however, not at his best in the decisive match against Malawi conceding twice, but one would feel for him after the error-prone defence left him exposed.
Although Mapeza deployed Shumba in the final game, which the team had nothing to lose, the fans felt Mhari was the star of this failed campaign by Mapeza and his men. “It’s an honour for me. I am humbled by that and that can only motivate me to do even better,” said Mhari.
“It’s a tournament we all felt we could have done better. We are sorry to the nation but we picked a lot of positives.” Kundai Benyu, who was added to the team late for his composure, also played his socks off in the first two games before he sat on the sidelines in the third game.
Benyu was voted the second-best player from the lot with 33 per cent on his side while versatile South Africa-based star Gerald Takwara came out third with 24.4 per cent of the vote. Takwara is one of the only three players who started all the three games with the steely Venda Academy player deployed at centre-back.
In the first two games, Takwara partnered Teenage Hadebe before he twinned with Peter Muduwa in the last game against Guinea. One of the team’s unsung heroes Takudzwa Chimwemwe got 7.1 per cent of the votes. The Nkana right-back started the first two games and he played part of the last game.
Source – The Herald
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